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Chan, "Factory 798: An everchanging microcosm of contemporary Chinese culture," 2007

USC thesis in East Asian Languages and Cultures.
August 21, 2009

Tracy S. Chan, M.A

Abstract (Summary)

The following study will be a close examination of Beijing's 798 Factory, whose revamping from a Communist weapons factory to a chic, modern space of art has a future that is yet to be determined. Though its initial popularity ignited much interest around the world, its attention is now attracting that of seemingly profit-seeking developers who want to tear down the complex and create an ultra modern space filled with shiny skyscrapers, shopping centers, hip restaurants, and of course, the occasional art gallery. Modern China has the mentality that in order to keep up with what is new, one must first get rid of the old, and as Beijing is at the crux of becoming "something big," speculation over what becomes of spaces like 798 has brought about much debate and anxiety amongst the people of the art world.

Factory 798 of today is grounded on two different branches of history: that of the 1950s 798 and that of the artistic community. When the factory first opened in the early 1950s, it was the epitome of the socialist workplace and community, and even though the factory today is no longer a highly organized workplace, there are definite parallels between the past and present communities. In addition, by tracing the evolution and development of the artistic group and community, it will become clear that Factory 798 is an evolved artists' community. Yet unlike its predecessors, this one should not face its pending destruction because history will also delineate that artists as well as contemporary Chinese art has definitely benefited from being part of a group.

Advisor: Lippit, Akira
Committee members: Lee, Sonya,  Tang, Xiaobing